No. 192.

169 U.S. 243 (1898)


Supreme Court of United States.

Decided February 21, 1898.

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Alfred G. Safford and Mr. Isaac N. Flickinger for plaintiffs in error. Mr. Omri F. Hibbard was on their brief.

Mr. Winfield S. Strawn for defendants in error.

MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

The contention of the plaintiffs in error, and in it is the only question of a Federal nature presented by the record, is that the courts in Iowa did not give that full faith and credit to the decree rendered in the Supreme Court of the State of New York to which under the Constitution of the United States it was entitled. From the foregoing statement of facts it appears clearly that although the suit in the Iowa court was originally commenced by Blackman, and though his name was, under the practice prevailing in Iowa, never dropped from the title of the case, it was by reason of the intervention of Phelan and the orders of the court simply prosecuted in his name for the benefit of Phelan, the intervenor; that this intervention of Phelan, and his petition in support thereof, making the plaintiffs in error and others defendants thereto, was filed on the 17th of September, 1892, nearly two months before the commencement of the suit in New York. It also appears that while Blackman, Phelan, Wright and others were named as parties defendant to the suit in New York, Blackman was the only one served within the territorial jurisdiction, and the only one appearing in that court. The other defendants were attempted to be brought in by service of summons in the State of Nebraska, and never entered any appearance in the suit. It is true the decree in the Supreme Court of the State of New York was entered before the trial of this case in the District Court of Iowa, and the record of the proceedings in the New York court was in evidence at the trial in the Iowa court. It further appears from the findings of fact made by the trial court in Iowa, and sustained by the Supreme Court of that State, that the entire right and title had passed from Blackman to Phelan in September, 1892, nearly two months before the commencement of the suit in New York.

Upon these facts we remark that as the land, the subject-matter of this controversy, was situate in Iowa, litigation in respect to its title belonged properly to the courts within that State, Ellenwood v. Marietta Chair Co., 158 U.S. 105, 107, although if all the parties interested in the land were brought personally before a court of another State, its decree would be conclusive upon them and thus in effect determine the title. The suit in New York was one purely in personam. Any decree therein bound simply the parties before the court and their privies, and did not operate directly upon the lands. As said by this court in Carpenter v. Strange, 141 U.S. 87, 105:

"The real estate was situated in Tennessee and governed by the law of its situs, and while by means of its power over the person of a party a court of equity may in a proper case compel him to act in relation to property not within its jurisdiction, its decree does not operate directly upon the property nor affect the title, but is made effectual through the coercion of the defendant, as, for instance, by directing a deed to be executed or cancelled by or on behalf of the party. The court has no `inherent power, by the mere force of its decree, to annul a deed or to establish a title.'"

In that suit the only party defendant subject to the jurisdiction of the court was Blackman. The other parties were not served with process within the limits of the State of New York and never entered any appearance in the case. The service attempted to be made by delivering a copy of the summons to them in the State of Nebraska was ineffectual to bring them within the jurisdiction of that court.

"Where the entire object of the action is to determine the personal rights and obligations of the defendants, that is, where the suit is merely in personam, constructive service in this form upon a nonresident is ineffectual for any purpose. Process from the tribunals of one State cannot run into another State, and summon parties there domiciled to leave its territory and respond to proceedings against them. Publication of process or notice within the State where the tribunal sits cannot create any greater obligation upon the nonresident to appear. Process sent to him out of the State, and process published within it, are equally unavailing in proceedings to establish his personal liability. Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 727.

"Such a decree, being in personam merely, can only be supported, against a person who is not a citizen or resident of the State in which it is rendered, by actual service upon him within its jurisdiction." Hart v. Sansom, 110 U.S. 151, 155.

We remark again that while a judgment or decree binds not merely the party or parties subject to the jurisdiction of the court but also those in privity with them, yet that rule does not avail the plaintiffs in error, for Phelan acquired his rights prior to the institution of the suit in New York and was therefore not privy to that judgment.

"It is well understood, though not usually stated in express terms in works upon the subject, that no one is privy to a judgment whose succession to the rights of property thereby affected, occurred previously to the institution of the suit. A tenant in possession prior to the commencement of an action of ejectment cannot therefore be lawfully dispossessed by the judgment unless made a party to the suit... . No grantee can be bound by any judgment in an action commenced against his grantor subsequent to the grant, otherwise a man having no interest in property could defeat the estate of the true owner. The foreclosure of a mortgage, or of any other lien, is wholly inoperative upon the rights of any person not a party to the suit, whether such person is a grantee, judgment creditor, attachment creditor, or other lienholder." Freeman on Judgments, (1st ed.,) § 162.

As Phelan was not brought within the jurisdiction of the New York court, and as the suit in that court was instituted nearly two months after he had acquired full title to the real estate, the decree of that court did not bind him as a party, nor bind him as in privity with Blackman, his grantor. The Supreme Court of Iowa did not err in so holding.

The decree is



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